10 Tips to Shop Smarter

10 tips to shop smarter

I love shopping as much as the next girl, but I will be the first to admit that nothing good comes out of a mindless shopping spree. There are a ton of cute clothes out there, but a jumble of adorable pieces does not make for a functional closet. Below are 10 tips to help you get the most out of your shopping trips.

1. Decide What You Need

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Just browsing can be fun, but if you want to make it a productive shopping trip, it is best to go with a plan. Figure out what you need.  Is your closet missing sweaters or a coat for the upcoming fall season? A top to match the skirt you picked up last time? Shopping with a purpose will help make your shopping trip a productive one.

2. Go Pre-Shopping

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Pinterest is a great place to see what’s trending and get style inspiration

Before heading out,  browse the online stores to give yourself an idea of what to look out for. For even more outfit inspiration, visit fashion sources such as Teen Vogue (still useful even if you’re not a teen!) and Pinterest. Getting up to date on the season’s upcoming trends is a great way to give your shopping trip direction and inspiration.

3. Budget Your Trip

Before going shopping, check your bank account and decide upon a rough budget for the trip. This will encourage you to make more thoughtful purchases instead of buying first cute item you find. Also, don’t forget to check for any good sales going on, and whether you have any coupons to use.

4. Shop Alone

Going shopping with friends is a lot of fun, but if you want to get the most out of your shopping trip, it is best to go solo. When shopping with others, you may tend to take less time to think through your purchases, view fewer options, or buy what everyone else is buying. Shopping at your own pace allows you the freedom to accomplish what you need to.

5. Leave Your Options Open

If you come across something you are thinking about purchasing, don’t be afraid to leave it and come back later. This gives you the opportunity to think through whether the purchase is truly necessary and allows for the possibility of finding something else you like better.

6. Staple Pieces vs. Statement Pieces

The bright daisy print dress is a statement piece and the nude sweater and brown belt are staple pieces.

Statement pieces, such as stunning patterned dresses and floral blouses, are most tempting when browsing a store. But staple pieces, such as basic tees, tanks, and cardigans, will get the most wear. Staple pieces can be worn together, but statement pieces typically need to be paired with neutral-toned staples. Maintaining a balance of staple pieces and statement pieces is the key to avoiding having a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear.

7. Try It On

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And sometimes a dressing room mirror selfie is completely necessary!

For the life of me, I don’t understand why people buy clothes without trying them on first! Sometimes a piece that looks really cute on the mannequin turns out to be disappointingly lackluster after trying it on. In the fitting room, move around, check out the back, lift your arms/legs, and really get a feel for whether you could live in the piece. Don’t be afraid to try on multiple sizes!

8. Ask Yourself…

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While examining a piece in the dressing room, ask yourself a series of questions: Am I prepared to care for it as recommended on the label? How often will I wear this? How would I style this piece with the clothes I already have? Would I feel comfortable wearing this all day? Do I have something like this already? Answering these questions will help you choose the pieces that will contribute most to your closet

9. Know What You’re Buying

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This is the only reason why an animal should be in your closet!

Every time we make a purchase, we are voting with our dollars. It is important to know what we’re voting for. I avoid purchasing animal materials such as leather, fur, wool, and down because I cannot truly know how these animals were treated. Even animals at “humane” facilities are often subjected to cruel treatment and are ultimately slaughtered. I also try to inform myself about a company’s treatment of their workers to avoid supporting companies that do not treat them fairly.

10. Hang On To Receipts

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The fridge is a great place to keep new receipts!

In case you change your mind about a piece or notice any defects, keep the receipts in a safe place until you are completely sure that you love your new finds. This takes a lot of the hassle out of making returns.

Those are my 10 tips for shopping smarter. I hope these tips help you make wiser purchases during your next shopping trip!

Best,

Leila

Emerging from your Old Skin

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Sometimes, nature teaches you life lessons. Today, I found a cicada’s empty shell in my back yard. Since the outer skeleton does not grow with the insect, from time to time, it crawls out of its old skin and grows a new, stronger, and bigger one. The cicada emerges weak and vulnerable. But without looking back, it leaves its old shell behind and aspires to become something more. I started thinking about the empty skin and realized that it serves as a great metaphor for life.

Right now, I am on the precipice of adulthood. In a couple of weeks, I will be starting my sophomore year of college and moving into my first apartment. Finding a job and saving up for a car are at the front of my mind, as well as declaring my major and pursuing a career after graduation. Choosing your path in life is scary. It means letting go of the past and venturing into the dangerous and unknown future, even though it may not turn out the way you want it to.

But at times like these, I think we all could channel the courage of a cicada. We can’t remain complacent and comfortable in our old  skin. We must aspire to grow and move forward, even if it means taking a risk and leaving familiarity behind. That moment when you first emerge from your old skin, unsure of whether you will ever find your new beautiful armor, must be tough. But like the cicada, we need to have faith in who we are meant to be and keep flying.

Best,

Leila

What I Learned during my First Year Vegan

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Two days ago, I celebrated my 1 year vegan anniversary. It is a cliche, but it is hard to believe that a whole year has gone by already. However, reflecting upon where I started makes me realize how far I have come. So below are a few things I learned during my first year as a vegan.

You can’t be perfect.

During my first week vegan, I remember accidentally eating sauce that contained oyster extract. I felt so discouraged and upset with myself for letting it slip under the radar. Now I know that obsessing over the small stuff will simply burn you out. Your best is always the best you can do.

You can’t change the world all at once.

It is sad, and seems defeated to say, but because there is such a huge wall between consumers and where their food comes from, ignorance is something we must learn to live with it. There is not much you can do to stop a stranger at the grocery store from buying that jug of milk, and you would lose your mind if you got upset every time you saw someone eating meat. Simply put, you can’t change everyone. Striking a balance between understanding the cruel reality while at the same time working to make the world a better place is key to maintaining your strength to keep fighting.

Don’t be annoying.

I must confess that I went through a stage where I was an annoying vegan. I felt that if I didn’t speak up whenever I saw someone consuming animal products, I would be letting the animals down. But looking back, I was doing more harm than good. Criticizing your friends’ meal choices won’t make them want to go vegan. Who would respond favorably to someone who constantly picks on them?  By showing the world we are accepting and understanding, we can make being vegan much more inviting.

Living with non-vegan friends and family can be challenging.

Friends and family are the most difficult people to change. Talking to them about veganism can be awkward, and friends and family are more likely to take arguments and disagreements personally. For the sake of peace among comrades, I choose to simply avoid confrontation and tolerate their choices to consume animal products. In fact, not being judgmental makes friends and family more likely to show interest in talking to you about veganism.

Keep an open mind.

As a vegan with strongly-held ethical beliefs, it is easy to go into every conversation with my mind already made up. But I find it does more harm than good to come off as someone who is unwilling to listen and consider opposing viewpoints. How can we expect others to consider our message if we won’t consider theirs? Ask questions and listen to others, even if they disagree with you. You will find common ground if you listen to their side.

Stay positive!

Let’s be real: confronting some of the most twisted, terrible, and cruel sides of humanity can be a burden sometimes. But it is always important to stay positive. Being vegan is a joy. Our attitude and outlook on the world should reflect that. Smile. Be lighthearted. Watch happy animal videos. Take a time out to de-stress. Making the world a more positive place begins with you.

Here’s to the start of the second year of my vegan journey! I can’t wait to see where this year takes me.

Best,

Leila

How to Stay Vegan While Eating Out

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A common concern about the vegan lifestyle is staying vegan while eating out. Many fear they must decide between eating a boring undressed salad or relinquishing their social life altogether. Luckily, with a bit of strategy, staying vegan while eating out is easy, delicious, and a lot of fun. Here are some tips:

Find Vegan Friendly Restaurants

noodles and companyThough you may not always have the opportunity to choose where you go out to eat, it helps to suggest some vegan-friendly restaurants. To find restaurants nearby to you, use HappyCow.net. You can also get the Happy Cow app to look up restaurants on the go. Simply enter your geographic location, and Happy Cow finds all of the vegetarian, vegan, and veg-friendly restaurants nearby.

Look Up the Menu Beforehand

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Found this in the handy online nutrition guide I looked up prior to going out.

Don’t be that annoying vegan who gives the waiter a third degree in front of all their friends. Most restaurants have a menu available on their website that contains nutrition and allergen information. Familiarize yourself with the options and then surprise your friends with what a breeze eating out vegan is.

Be Creative

Even if an entree is not vegan, it may be possible to make it vegan with a few alterations, such as by substituting meat for tofu. Just ask the waiter. If you find yourself in a position where the restaurant does not carry a vegan entree you like, most will be more than happy to accommodate you by piecing together a few side dishes to make a meal. To make the meal a bit tastier, some enjoy bringing a few extras with them to the restaurant, such as vegan Parmesan, butter, or salad dressing.

Be Patient

From peta2’s Do’s and Don’ts of eating out

Surprisingly, many people working in the food industry do not know what “vegan” means. Instead of confusing them, ask them directly whether a particular dish contains dairy or eggs. You would hate to have them misunderstand and bring you a gluten free or vegetarian dish instead. And if they make a mistake, be kind and understanding. That’s what veganism is all about, after all.

Don’t Stress

At a restaurant, all of your food is prepared out of your sight, so contamination is not always possible to prevent. Instead of making a scene, stay calm. Veganism should be about the animals, not personal purity. Don’t give your friends the idea that the vegan lifestyle is extremely difficult and restrictive. Instead, show them how easy and flexible it is.

Having a meal that is 98% vegan just once or twice a month is not devastating. Though flipping a vegan burger with the same spatula as a meat burger contaminates the vegan burger, it does not increase the demand for meat at all. So from an ethical standpoint, what utensils or pan they use to prepare your food does not matter. Instead of stressing about contamination, relax and have a good time with your friends and family. Maybe when they see how delicious your meal looks, they will give the vegan entree a try, too.

Those are my tips for staying vegan while eating out! It may feel like more preparation for a meal out than you are used to, but with practice, it becomes easy. With delicious and healthy vegan food at almost any restaurant, there is no need to fear eating out.

Best,

Leila

My Vegan Story

my vegan story

I am vegan. In other words, I do not eat animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey, wear animal fibers and skins, use products tested on animals, or visit places that use animals for entertainment.

But it was not always that way. Six months ago, I made the commitment to live vegan. In this post, I will share the story of how and why I went vegan. It is a very personal story and was difficult to write, but I hope that if you are interested in going vegan, this helps you put your heart and mind in the right place.

I will begin my vegan story in November of 2013, before the idea of going vegan had even entered my mind. My parents were divorced and my sister and I were caught in the middle of a custody battle. I hated that, just because I was a minor, I had no say in what was happening to me. The judges, lawyers, and psychologists who did not know me at all had more power over my life than I did. And no matter what I said or did, I was always told the same thing: I had no choice.

Through these hard times, I turned to music. In February 2014, I started listening to The Agonist, a metal band fronted by Alissa White-Gluz. I loved listening to bands with a strong female vocalist because it made me feel empowered, like for a second my life was in my own hands again.

the second

In addition to being a vocalist, Alissa White-Gluz is a passionate vegan and animal rights activist. Her passion soon began to rub off on me. I looked up to her and decided I wanted to be vegan too someday.

During the spring and summer of 2014, I began to realize that eating animals was wrong. I would feel so guilty every time I ate or prepared meat. But I was afraid to talk to my family about going vegetarian or vegan. I figured I would wait until I went to college that fall to make the change.

But my guilt continued to grow. I began to feel nauseous every time I ate meat and tried to stop. I would cook dinner for my family, eat the side dishes, and then put the meat away once my family had left.

All the while, I was in a constant mental battle with myself, fighting against what I knew was right. What if the animals died painlessly? What if I only ate meat that was hunted, so they weren’t being killed in a slaughterhouse? But deep down, I began to realize that none of the excuses I came up with could justify killing animals.

Then, I had a dream that changed everything. In my dream, I was in a forest with sunlight shining through the green leaves. I saw a deer in the trees. The deer was so detailed, that I could see the sunlight shining through her ears and the delicate veins running through them. She was not just an animal. She was someone.

But behind her, I saw a hunter.

in that moment

In that moment, animal rights became real to me. I realized that animals have their own lives, families, futures, hopes, and dreams and do not want to die. They deserve to live out their lives free from harm, just like people do. They are not objects here for us to use. They exist for their own purposes. I realized that I should not gain my nourishment from someone else’s pain and suffering if I do not have to.

I still felt shy about talking to my family, so on July 17, 2014, I wrote my family a note about my decision to stop eating meat. They were very supportive and understanding of my lifestyle change. My mom even bought tofu and tempeh for me.

But after doing research on the dairy and egg industry, it quickly became obvious that a vegetarian lifestyle was far from cruelty-free. So I decided to go vegan. July 18, 2014, 6 months ago from today, was my first day vegan.

Since then, animal rights has become my passion. I know with all my heart that animals deserve to live free from harm, usage, and exploitation, and I will never give up until they are free.

angora hurts rabbitsAfter I started college, my painful custody battle finally came to an end. I now use my experiences to strengthen my empathy for animals. Their suffering is a thousand times worse than mine, with no freedom in sight. And until the world hears their voice, I will speak for them:

Please, go vegan. I know that you care about animals, and that you could never hurt one with your own hands. I know that it is difficult to unlearn the idea that animals are here for humans to use. I know that making such a big lifestyle change is scary. But it is beyond worth it.

Living vegan means that the hundreds of animals you use and consume each year do not have to suffer any longer.

It means that mother cows get to feed and nurture their calves instead of being separated at birth.

cows reality vs hope

It means that male chicks get a chance at life instead of being ground up alive by the egg industry.

chicks reality vs hope

It means that pigs get the opportunity to show their intelligence and personality instead of becoming a meal.

pigs reality vs hope

To you, choosing between soy milk and dairy milk, a veggie burger and a meat burger, does not seem like a big deal. But to them, it means life or death.

It does not take a special person to be vegan. You don’t have to be an animal lover or health fanatic. I was just an ordinary person who decided to care. And I know you can do it too. All it takes is an open mind and a compassionate heart.

Best,

Leila

My Eighteenth Birthday!

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I (finally) turned eighteen on Tuesday the 16th! I had an amazing day, so I thought I would share it with you!

I began the day bright and early, taking a 7:30 AM train back home from college. Conveniently, the day before had been my last day of finals. After a super fun 5 hour train ride (sarcasm), I finally made it home!

For lunch, I made the boxed vegan Mac and Cheese from Earth Balance in the cheddar flavor, which is really amazing stuff!  I also added some steamed broccoli florets. I know I’m supposed to be an adult now, but boxed mac and cheese will always have a special place in my heart.

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And of course, I had to spend the afternoon with my favorite pet tortoise, Macantosh!

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Then, I took a trip to Trader Joe’s. One of the items I picked up was this pack of soy ice cream sandwiches! Can’t wait to try them!

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For dinner, we went out to one of my favorite restaurants, Flat Top Grill. This is a super nice restaurant for anyone with dietary restrictions. You simply make your own stir fry by picking out the ingredients yourself and filling your bowl. There are plenty of fresh veggies, vegan protein such as seitan, tofu, and mushroom protein, and and many vegan sauces. If you wish to avoid contamination, you place a white stick into your order so they cook it in a separate wok. Here is my dinner:

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There was a Barnes and Noble right down the street, so we stopped in and looked around. I picked up the January issue of Alternative Press because it contains the annual holiday poster special with twenty pictures of some of the best in alternative music artists for 2014.

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I also found this adorable peta2 ad in the issue of Alternative Press! Love it; such an important message! It is amazing to see that animal rights activism is being spread far and wide.

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After we got home, it was time for cake! My family made me these chocolate vegan cupcakes using an accidentally vegan chocolate cake mix, soy milk, and Ener-G egg replacer. They also topped them with vegan vanilla frosting! The cupcakes are placed in the shape of a turtle. The rightmost cupcake has 2 chocolate chips for eyes!

IMG_20141216_222059108They were so kind to make these amazingly delicious cupcakes for me! I love that they went out of their way to make this extra special gesture for me on my birthday! My family is the best. ❤

My sister gave me this amazing candle from Bath and Body Works as a gift. It is mint mocha bark scented! It is so cute! I love the little mason jar it comes in. The scent is amazing. It smells like minty hot chocolate! I am obsessed! ❤

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That was my eighteenth birthday! It was a super exciting birthday for me, as I had been looking forward to turning eighteen for a long time. It feels both amazing and scary that I am officially an adult now! All of  the birthday wishes from my friends and family really made me feel the warmth and fuzzies!

It was also my first birthday being vegan. As you can see, I was still able to enjoy the same tasty treats as I enjoyed as a non-vegan. From mac and cheese, to ice cream, to cupcakes, to stir fry, anything can be made vegan! I have said it before and I will say it again: When you go vegan, the only thing you have to give up is cruelty!

Best,

Leila

My 100th Blog Post!

100th blog post

This is my 100th post! It is unbelievable that I have shared so many of my thoughts, opinions, and experiences on this blog already! I have been blogging for over 5 months now, and it has grown into more than just a hobby. Through this blog, I have discovered so much about my own passions and abilities, and connected with many amazing people I would have never been able to otherwise.

I am so grateful to everyone who has stuck with me through these first 100 posts. Every single like and comment means so much to me! Without you, this blog would not exist. These 100 posts speak volumes about me, but I would love to get to know you, too! Feel free to leave a comment (I read all of them!), share your thoughts, and refer me to your blog!

I would also love to know which posts were your favorite, and what you would like to see in the future. Here is to a hundred more posts that are even better than the first!

Best,

Leila